tv U.S. Senate CSPAN July 24, 2013 9:00am-12:01pm EDT
i would say on the broader technology side it's something that republican need to work on, and elizabeth who works -- a contributing editor wrote a piece recently that where she was pointing out that on the democratic side, a lot of those bach campaign developed a lot. these people have gone out to the private sector and you have sort of private sector initiatives going on developing cutting edge technology and data bays -- baseses while she was drawing the five-year styling plan. it centralized and not in the private sector. and maybe not as innovative as it needs to be or as democrats are. and republicans might be well ad vised to sort of revisit a little bit how they are approaching technology.
and not having something sort of one-off of the rnc. bruce mckay with dominion. the virginia governor's race on -- do you expect it to be the case this way? or the candidates involved throw that theory out? >> i think the new jersey governor's races will be of -- absolutely no you utility of telling us anything at all. the virginia's governor race is unusually -- i think it's going to be an interesting test, i mean, let's just start off with, say, okay, virginia is a swing state, and we know that that virginia has a history of voting -- of electing governor was of the opposite party from that --
from which ever side is in the white house. we know it's a tendency. we know it's not concrete. it's out there. it's an interesting test that is out there. then what you have is two candidates that are of by and for their respective bases in a swing state where independent and moderate voters are getting more and more important neither side fielded a candidate that was sort of made to order to go after swing voters. and so to me, the voters between the two 40-yard-line. they are, absolutely up for grabs. if you are a republican and want want to go after the 40-yard-line. i'm not sure you would have gone after ken.
if you want to go for the candidate, i'm not sure you would get recruit a former democratic national chairman. and so i think in a really interesting way, this is a great jump ball situation where neither side has a natural claim on the other, and we are just sort of how people feel about national politic and the two parties may steer some of the moderate independents one direction or the other. keep in mind that four years ago, president obama had just taken office. just taken office, and that the democratic nominee had just won the nomination. wan month -- and actually there was a poll or two that showed him ahead of bob
mcdonnell. a poll or two. then suddenly deeds started dropping. mcdonnell started picking up, and i'm sure details must -- di et z -- did i say something wrong. did i not shower this morning? what just happened? i started dropping like a stone. and the reason was president obama's numbers had really started trooping at that point. the democratic party had started -- just, you know, almost overnight lost the momentum they had in 2008. a senate had gone democratic in 2008, and suddenly it started transitioning right out from under him and you saw the national dynamic really kick in there. and so i think -- i would love to know who is going to win the virginia's governor race. not that it will tell us what direction the country is going necessarily in 2014, but it's
probably the best indicater we have this year of, you know, it's sort of the biggest sample poll that is going to be out there this year of swing voters, and which way they are sort of going. so i think it's going to be great. did i tell you who i thought was going to win? no. [laughter] i don't -- , i mean, because i honestly don't know. and i think a lot of -- i think a lot of voters in virginia still don't know a whole lot about either candidate. i think it's going to be particularly more the virginia voters. i think it's going to be maybe the last month or so when it engages. maybe we'll have a hint, maybe. there's a good chance we won't all the way up. >> mary. i work at graham thorton. good to see you, charlie. you spoke about technology in the impact on the races. can you address the changes that pollsters are having to deal
with with making sure their polls are accurate, and how that evolution can impact the predictability of races as we move to the next election. >> that's another terrific question. let me give an answer that is a pre2012 answer, and let me give an effective by 2012 answer. because of the rise of tell marketing through the '90s and the last decade, and voice mail, caller id, all of these thing. i'm not even including at this point cell phones. the effectivenesses of market research and political polling has gone down. and the response rates how many calls do you have to make before you get one completion?
and at one point it was in the 30s, now, you know, it's in the 10% range. you have to make, you know, ten calls to get one fully completed interview in a lot of cays. -- cases. what we had happening. again, it was before cell phones get to the mix. what we already had happening was that the very best pollsters in the business, democrat, republican, independent, the best pollsters could not do as good job as they themselves were able to ten, twenty, thirty years ago. no matter how hard they tried, it wasn't as reliability as it used to be. then you introduced cell cell phones, and the better pollsters were taking that in to account and including cell phone in the sample. i noticed the greenberg poll yesterday. 50% of the sample was made up of
people reached on cell phone. which, by the way, is extraordinarily expensive to do. and so they're having to do that because increasingly how many people in the room do not have a landline. raise your hand. it's a pretty good sized number. so tender technology -- tender technologies like robo calling in the allowed to call cell phone. you kind of get in to that. you get in to 2012, so all of these were problem going to 2012, and then in 2012 you had sort of a unique problem. and that was that one of the things that happens as the response rate goes down, poller pollsters have to weigh the numbers to make sure they have a representative sample. we know the electorate is going to be 52, or 53% female, for
example. there's certain things you count on happening, you know, some race things. anyway, there are things you count on. they have to weight to make up for it because the response rates are so low. you had a growing division in 2012 about what is the 2012 elect rate going look like. and what you generally speaking had was you had republican pollsters say 2008 when you had minority jumped up so much. and young people jump up so much. you had very unusual dynamic. that was a result of first minority nominee for what, the presidency. the excitement, the energy around barack obama. all of that. you have republican pollsters assuming that 2008 was a
one-shot deal. and 2012 turnout dynamics would look something closer to a normal presidential turnout. on the other hand, you had democratic pollsters who were, say, no we have a new normal. the country is changing. it's becoming more diverse. the young people are energized. they are going to turn out yet again and this and this enthat. what we started seeing in the fall of 2012 between the two sides was a growing gap between what republican pollsters were getting and believed and what democratic pollsters were getting and believed. and part of what i was doing was sort of e-mailing and talking back and forth to pollsters on both sides just sort of off the record what have you seen? what kind of margin are you seeing? that sort of thing.
in these cases these are people that i have known for twenty or thirty years. i knew they may be right, they may be wrong, but i know they're not lying to me. which is not always the case with pollsters. in some cases -- you know. and, you know, there was an honest to god defense -- difference of opinion between the two sides. you had to reconcile who was going to be right and whoches going to be wrong. at the same time you had independent pollsters who had had some screening questioning. questions designed to ascertain who is and who isn't likely to vote. for example, historically people how much interest do you have in the upcoming election. historically that's been a pretty good question to determine who isn't and is likely to vote. apparently in 2012, it didn't work. a lot of the traditional questions that had usually worked didn't work in 2012.
and so you sort of had the fill philosophical difference what the electorate was. it was going -- you had legitimate people that didn't have a thumb on the scale in any dprix direction that were using traditionally reliability yardsticks that weren't right. and so you had some result that were, you know, all over the map. and we're now beginning to see a lot more sort of nontraditional polling. both the obama and the romney campaigns. yes, they were doing a certain amount of live interview polling, but they were also going in to ohio and dropping 10,000 robo calls in to ohio and waiting to say, okay, i know they're not getting cell phones, and i know, you know, -- but we can try to wait around and that and correct for that. where they were overlying and coming up with the an an
analytical model based on something different than traditional live interview polling. it's live interview, it's row bow call -- row bow an online polling which i've been dismissive. i never thought you could get a representative sample online. there's new things that are getting done, for example, going in and giving people who agree to be in a pool and a sample -- give them a computer. in exchange for them responding or doing it for for a or 10,000 people around the country. they can draw on them for online interview. all kinds of things are happening. it's happening because the old traditional model of polling isn't working as well as it used to. and so polling -- it always has been an art based
on a science. now it's getting to be even more of a mix and less scientifically than used to be. because i think you're going to be seeing sort of multiple methods of polling being basically, thrown in a mixer and -- blended together to get numbers. a lot of subjectivity goes in to that. it's tough. we are sort of in a new world. in a prove -- briefs life i worked as a poll territorial-type. -- pollster. it doesn't look like it did in 1980. 0. >> over here. >> hi, charlie. thank you. there's been some buzz on twitter -- he works with me. >> about 2016. i know, some folks are hoping you can lay out the long view of
the land for the next presidential race. >> i'm going write off the entire side. [laughter] first of all, there should be a disclaimer here the accurate rate for progress , you know, it's maybe a little easier to look at both sides each side separately. you know, each side is a group of questions, i mean,let think about it. if you were going to do a little decision trading. hillary clinton, yes or no? now the convention -- then there's hillary clinton if yes, then biden is more likely to be no. hillary clinton, if no, then biden is probably a little bit more likely to be yes.
not absolutely. but -- you know, and you get to the others. the convention nalt -- conventional wisdom in washington seems to be she's absolutely going to run. and the prelim decision -- political decision and the politic say she should run. i don't know if she's going run or not. while i would agree with the conventional wisdom if it's a 100% political decision, the odds are probably very, very high she runs. i think it's going to be a personal and political decision. and the personal side is does she feel like running? i personalitily think she was a terrific secretary of state. lord knows i would travel 38 times around the world as she did furring -- during the four years and 119 days on the road and that. that job really did take the
toll on her. and that last couple of month she was secretary of state. those were physically health wise those appeared to be very rough months. so does she feel up to it? yes or no? and, you know, does she, you know, look around and, again, you know, i have no inside inside whatsoever. but, you know, she's probably maybe she's sitting there thinking, you know, she lost her mom a couple of years ago, and i think people when you lose your remaining parent you have a greater sense of mortality than you used to. she had a couple of people she knew well in the senate that have had devastating strokes at stressingly early ages. does she, you know, does that impact on sort of the health consequences? you know, and, you know, is chelsea going to have a kid? you know, automatic of --
all of these things. i think it's going to be a political and personal decision. i would put closer to 50/50 maybe 60/40. i would argue if the personal is going to to be if she wants to go it. the politics would argue strongly for her to do it. for joe biden. i think biden wants to run. i think realistically if hillary clinton was running with my guess is the odds are he wouldn't. but you never know. but, you know, once the democratic party has made a shift from the baby boom generation to the -- what is that generation x? millennium -- no that's after that. x is right. what is immediately after baby boom. it's x; right?
once the elect moved with obama to generation x, maybe they might go back for hillary, but will they go back for joe? don't know. and if hillary clinton doesn't run, i refuse to believe that we're ever going see an open contest for a democratic nomination with an all-male field. so if hillary clinton doesn't run, do you see kristin -- amy klobuchar, elizabeth warn. warren. for someone not in washington. a governor. you might say, martin o'malley,
andrew cuomo, john hickenlooper out there, or bryan from montana. you can see someone that never worked in washington. i'm not a part of the cesspool in washington. you see that out there. i mean, i think it's going -- lot of permutation where it may go. there are built on big question that have to be answered upfront. then on the republican party, it's a question of sort of how many times can you cut up the center right to right. in the sense of -- but, you know, ted cruz, rand paul, rick perry, scott walker, marco rubio, you know, chris
christie, i think christ chrisy would be a very, election. i'm not sure how chris christie win a republican nomination. any more than than, you know, let's say on the democratic side should a mark win a knick nomination. i think that would be very hard. i think a chris christie would have a hard time winning a republican nomination. maybe he decides to do it. then there's jeb bush who i think would be a strong candidate. i don't think he's going run. i don't think he's going run for person reasons. i would he like to run. you enter in to all of these things, you know, so that's a very, very long way of saying who the hell knows. but it's going to be a lot of fun to watch. who have i left out? i feel like i left a bunch of people. i don't have my cheat sheet in front of me. [inaudible] tom harkin?
[laughter] i think harkin is retiring. what is the story his wife read game change and said you're not running. i have no idea if it's true. i thought it was funny. and, you know, the old adage that senators never win nomination. up until 2008, the last time -- or general elections. the last u.s. senator to win the presidency was john kennedy, then you have the 2008, you know, you had two u.s. senators. has that changed. but if i were a party and just sort of not controlling for anything else, i would rather have a governor, i think, as a nominee. someone not perceived to be a part of washington. and not a part of congress. you know, does that mean any governor could win? obviously not.
we exhausted all questions? wait, there's some twitter questions. are we supposed to read names? michelle asked, 2014, g.o.p. still in trouble with younger, nonwhite female and moderate voters. my question will it matter in a midterm election? i think the answer to that is it depends, i mean, first of all, it's not that in a midterm election all voters are old, white, male and conservative or liberal. you are obviously going have voter that are younger nonwhite female and moderate. but how many are there going to be there? keep in mind that in the house, you know, how many are there going to be in the -- let call it four or five senate
states that make a difference in term of the u.s. senate. will that happen? you know, i don't think, you know, yes, republicans to the extent they had problems in 2004, those problems just because the nature of the turnout might be somewhat diminishedded -- ghished -- diminished makeup in 2014. that doesn't mean they go away at any stretch. [coughing] >> mid term election of amber thomas. will obama hurt democrats in 2014? that's what we look at polls for. you know, as i pointed out earlier he's at the ebbing librium point. at the 46nd 47% range vote.
so, you know, we don't know yet. if i had to bet will his approval number be higher or lower than, say, 47%? i think they might be -- i think i would pick the lower side than the upper side. one thing you have to keep in mind about president obama because he has such -- he -- if president obama were a stock in the stock market, you would say he's got a high floor and low ceiling. he's got a bedrock base of support that are going to approve of the job he's doing no matter what. but at the same time, you have an equally strong level of adamant level of opposition. so his numbers don't typically fluctuate -- don't typically break out of the certain trading range that is out there. so his numbers have not been gone as low as, say, george w.
bush's were during tough times. they didn't go to the high points where bush was at tough time or previous president. that's just, you know, if we knew what kind of job approval rating that president obama had in october, november of next year, that can give us a clue. again, we have to remember where are the key, you know, the key races are more senate than house, and the key -- the ones that are most relevant are alaska, arkansas, louisiana, north carolina, kentucky, those are the ones that matter. and those are ones that are not on the sunnier side for obama by on the shadier side. the lower side of whatever the national approval rating is. so we have to kind of keep in mind in as well. one more question. one more burning question. right here.
is there a microphone? yeah. hang on one more second. hi i'm danny. i'm a college student, actually. my question is as far as i know there's still pending redistincting cases -- redistricting cases in florida and texas making the way through the system. the map are noncompetitive. it one of the maps were to get overturned, particularly in florida, would you suspected it has any effect on the race for the house? >> i -- i wish i had david wasserman, our house editor here to throw a lifeline to. i'm not sure -- first of all, i don't know. and i don't know -- i don't know which way it would go. i think i remember david saying there are only a couple of places it would probably likely
change, and so i don't really know. but in the big scheme of things, there's a 17-seat difference, and, you know, that's not going to be materially changed much by courts overturning maps in florida or texas or anywhere else. and so i would say it would not likely have a significant national impact, and i kind of doubt if it would have that much more than a seat or two either. but i -- when i started my news letter in 1984, one of the things i realized very quickly i'm not a lawyer. so i'm very careful on redistricting and all kinds of lawsuits. that's just not where my area of expertise goes. so i try to stay in my lane. so i don't think it would make that much. thank you very much. first of all, i want to thank united technology and greg and
marty and the terrific people at united technologies for response or soing this -- sponsoring together. "national journal" -- i want to thank c-span for covering this. we are going to have several more of these this year and next year. thank you for coming. we have an exciting year -- oh, hang on a second. i'm told -- oh. when in doubt, read the directions. as a reminder we would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the event and encourage you to fill out the event surveys that were placed on your seat. you may give the completed survey to any member of the nawcial "national journal" team. thank you again. and the u.s. senate about ready to gavel in this morning. senators will begin the day with general speeches in about an hour resume debate on spending for next year's budget for transportation, housing, and
community development programs. senators considering a number of amendments and votes could happen throughout the day. also, awaiting action in the senate federal student loan rates, the subsidized rate doubled july 1st when legislation setting the rates ran out. the house passed a bill to replace it. the senate will consider the own bill. let's take you live to the floor of the u.s. senate. just about ready to get started. live coverage here on c-span 3. -- c-span 2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. lord of life, as senators deal with today's challenges, purge their hearts of anything that does not honor you.
remove the things that divide them, uniting them in the common task of doing what is best for our nation and world. when they are tempted to doubt, steady their faith. when they feel despair, infuse them with your hope. when they don't know what to do, open their minds to a wisdom that can change and shape our times according to your plan. lord, empower them to trust you more fully, live for you more completely, and serve you more willingly. we pray in your strong name.
amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., july 24, 2013. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable edward j. markey, a senator from the commonwealth of massachusetts, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader is recognized. mr. reid: following leader
remarks, there willing an hour of morning business. the first half is controlled by republicans. the second half is controlled by the majority. following morning business, the sna the will resume consideration of the transportation appropriations bill. senator murray and collins have done good work on this. we hope to wrap this bill up in the next 24 hours. we hope to vote in relation to the portman amendment this morning sometime. we also expect to consider the student loan legislation today. mr. president, we have, under the orders that have been entered here, we have the rights -- the ability to vote on the student loan bill, which is so important. there are several hours of debate -- four hours plus other time on various amendments. so i would think members should consider our having the ability to vote on this at about 4:00 this afternoon or thereabouts. we could have a series of votes.
we also have other nominations that are subject to votes, so we should have a number of votes today. i hope that in fact is the case. i admire and appreciate the work, as i've already mentioned, done on this aeption pros bill - appropriations bill. i hope we can wrap it up soon. it is hard to believe that 15 years ago, as the presiding officer knows, presiding officer jacob chestnut and john gibson were killed trying to prevent a crazed man from entering the capitol. we're going to have at 3:40 p.m. a moment of silence in memory of these two good men and, of course, every year their families are there. i really appreciate the work the capitol police does to make this building safe for us, staff, and all the visitors. and there's no time more
directed toward that than events like this. but because of the sacrifice these two men made, the capitol is a safer place, as a result of the visitor center, which now allows people to come into the capitol in an orderly fashion. they can have all their bags checked and everything so very, very quickly. in addition to that, there's restaurants and places to go to the bathroom and meeting halls. so the sacrifice made by these two men has made this place safer. it's just a tragic thing that it took both of their lives to do that. would the chair announce the business of the day? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business for one hour with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes
each, with the time equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees, with the republicans controlling the first half. the gentleman from illinois. mr. durbin: i understand that h.r. 2866 is at the desk and is due for its second reading. the presiding officer: the senator is correct. the clerk will read the too title. the clerk: h.r. 2668, an act to delay the application of the individual health insurance mandate and so forth and for other purposes. mr. durbin: i now object to further proceedings at this time. the presiding officer: objection having been heard, the bill will now be placed on the calendar. mr. durbin: mr. president, my understanding is that the minority has the first half of
the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: this morning i'd like to start by remembering the sacrifice of two 18-year veterans of the capitol police, detective john gibson and officer jacob chestnut on this day in 1988, gibson and chestnut paid the ultimate price while standing in defense of the united states capitol. we know these men fell defending more than just a structure, though. we know they fell defending more than just the members sent here or even the staffs that helped each of us better serve constituents and our country. no, these men died while protecting everything this billing represents: our democratic way of life, the freedom granted to each us by a creator we often thank but never see. we honor these men for their lives, and we honor them for the final act of heroism that ended those lives. that's why a plaque inside the
capitol commemorates their sacrifice. that's why the capitol police headquarters bears both of their names. that i know, is of little solace to the wives and children and friends left behind, but it is a small way of saying, we remember when the scale of the debt owed can never truly be repaid in full. so today the united states senate honors john gibson and j.j. chestnut for their sacrifice and the senate sends itsz condolences and gratitude to those who loved them most. now, on an entirely different matter, mr. president, i'm glad to see that senate democrats have final linded their obstruction -- ended their obstruction of the bipartisan student loan bill. it's been weeks since the democrats blew past the july 1 deadline they kept warning about and it's been even longer since the house passed a bill similar to the one they're actually now agreeing to. but at least democrats have
finally obstructing and arguing. at least now they're ready to put their partisan political fix aside and join president obama and congressional republicans in enacting real, permanent reform for all students. the only real reform on the table that's designed to help every middle-class family. i'd like to thank the sponsors of this bill for their hard work -- senators manchin, king, alexander, burr, and coburn. political parties, but they all really care about students, and this bill certainly proves that. and there's something else this bill proves, too: that democrats can work with republicans when they actually want to do it. when they check their partisan take-it-or-leave-it approaches at the door, we can actually talk with, rather than at, us. that's why it's really disheartening to hear about the partisan speech president obama plans to give today, the one the white house can't stop talking about.
with all the buildup, you'd think the president was unveiling the next bond film or something, but in all likelihood it will be more like a mid-day rerun of some 1970's b movie because we've heard it all before. it's really quite old. these speeches are just so form ulay i can. and they're usually more notable for what they leave out than what they contain. here's what i mean: we all know the president will bemoan the state of the economy in his speech but won't take responsibility for it. he'll criticize republicans for not rubber-stamping his policy but will leave out the fact that for two years democrats did just that. and yet the economic recovery is still stagnant. he won't talk about the fact that since he lost control of the house and his ability to have things exactly the way he wanted it, he's refused to engage with seemingly anyone in congress on ways to get the economy moving. a perfect illustration of that is the fact that instead of working with us on solutions, he's out giving speeches.
and here's the kicker: instead of taking responsibility for his failure to lead, he'll probably try and cast us as some titanic struggle between those who believe in -- quote, unquote -- "investing in the country" and those who supposedly want to eliminate paved roads or stop signs or whatever ridiculous straw man he invents this time. give me a break. give me a break. this is a real philosophical debate going on in our country. but it's not anything like how he imagines it. i'd say it's more of a debate between those who believe in a government that's smarter and more efficient and some who just seem to believe in government. against all the evidence between those who draw the obvious lessons from human tragedies in places like greece and detroit and some who just can't face up to the logical end points of their own ideology, who can't accept the terrible pain their own ideas inevitably inflict on
the weakest in our society. and it's between those who understand the necessity of empowering private enterprise if we're ever going to drive a sustained recovery for middle-class families and some who just can't seem to let go of ivory tower economic theories. even after four and a half years of an economy literally treading water. and speaking of ivory tower theories, here's another difference. some of us believe it's actually possible, possible to act as good stewards of the environment without declaring war on vulnerable groups of americans. i know there are a lot of people here in washington who think of appalachia as flyover country but many in my state have another word for it. they call it home. when these struggling families here one of the white house climate advisors say a war on coal is -- quote -- "exactly what's needed," exactly what's needed, can you imagine how that makes them feel? it makes them feel like they're expendable, like washington just
doesn't understand them, or frankly, simply doesn't care. it's like going to some of these big cities and shutting wall street down is how a coal worker from eastern kentucky recently put it. see how it affects everything he said. he said, "coal is our wall street. this is just one of the many reasons republicans have called for an all-of-the-above energy strategy because we understand traditional sources can be developed in tandem with new energies and technologies. and there is no other same strategy anyway since it's basically physically impossible even putting the catastrophic economic consequences aside here for a moment to even come close -- close -- to meeting our energy needs with renewables today. even come close. what are we going to do in the meantime? power our country with foreign energy? or american energy? this should be a no-brainer, but then again we're talking about washington here. that's why it's so frustrating
when the administration drags its feet on projects like the keystone pipeline, the north american oil that keystone would bring is basically going to come out of the ground whether we take it or not. so, will the administration take it and the jobs that would come along with it or surrender it to places like china? the white house won't say. the president's spokesman was asked for a decision again just yesterday. and you know what his answer was? don't look to us. look, this pipeline has been under review for years and years and years. it's basically being held up for one reason and one reason only, because the president is afraid to stand up to some of the most radical elements of his base, the kaoepbd -- kind of people you'll find at the flat earth society he'll talk about. it is time for him to choose between his political friends and middle-class families who stand to benefit from the jobs, growth and energy that keystone
would bring. keystone is one example of a project the president could work with both parties to implement right now, right now that would help our economy. and there's a lot more we could get done if he'd pick up the telephone and work with us every once in a while. i know democrats would like to hear from him as well. every time he gives one of these speeches it collects little more than a collective bipartisan eye roll. bipartisan eye roll. it is a colossal waste of time and energy, resources that would better be spent working with both parties in congress to grow the economy and to create jobs. i know that's what my constituents in kentucky expect, and frankly, they should expect that. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the republican whip is recognized. mr. cornyn: thank you, mr. president. i want to come to the floor to follow the remarks of our
republican leader on the president's pivot to the economy. over the last four years the obama administration has given us one of the biggest economic experiments in american history. the numbers tell the story. under this president, the federal government has increased the federal debt by $6.1 trillion, raised taxes by $1.7 trillion and imposed $518 billion worth of new regulations. the president when he came to office when he had a democratic senate and democratic house, in other words, his party controlled all branches of the legislative and executive branch, he got virtually everything he wanted. he got $1 trillion stimulus package. he wanted a government take overof america's health care -- takeover of america's health care system and that's what he got. he wanted extensive new regulations for the financial
industry, and he got that too. he wanted to impose, through the environmental protection agency radical environmental regulations, and that's what he got as well. so from 2009 until, through 2010, until the voters spoke in november of 2010, our friends on the other side of the aisle controlled the white house, the house of representatives under speaker pelosi, and the united states senate. and they got virtually everything they wanted. and that was their great experiment, to see whether a growing and intrusive and expanding federal government was the answer to our economic challenges and high unemployment. but we now know what the results have been. america's unemployment rate hit 10% for the first time since the early 1980's.
and it stayed above 8% for 43 state months. meanwhile many americans have simply given up looking for work. how do we know that? well, the bureau of labor statistics publishes something they call the labor participation rate. and we know the percentage of people in the workforce is the lowest it's been for more than 30 years. that's a tragedy. add it all up, and we've been experiencing the weakest economic recovery in the longest period of high unemployment since the great depression in the 1930's. even by the president's own measuring stick, by his own standards, his economic record has been a huge disappointment. hence, his repetitive pivots to the economy time and time again, particularly at a time when his administration is having to answer a lot of hard questions about various scandals.
but i'm with speaker boehner. i say welcome, mr. president, let's talk about the economy. let's talk about what works and what does not work. and i think we know now what does not work, which is another government program that raises taxes, increases regulations and creates uncertainty on the job creators that we are depending upon to put america back to work. as a "washington post" correspondent noted this last week the president promised one million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016. but factory unemployment has fallen for the last four months, and it's only 13,000 jobs toward that goal. now there is some good news, mr. president. i was on the floor yesterday admittedly bragging a little bit about the economic growth in my state, in texas, and one of the reasons is because we're taking advantage of the innovation and the technology boom in the energy production business, and
we're actually seeing a huge movement back onshore to the united states of a lot of manufacturing because of low price of natural gas. but unfortunately, the president does not seem to recognize the benefits of producing our own domestic natural energy and what that would mean in terms of bringing jobs back onshore and creating more manufacturing jobs. the president has promised to increase net take-home pay and expand the middle class. you may recall particularly on the health care bill, he said it would reduce health care premiums by $2,500 for a family of four. well, unfortunately he proved to be wrong, because the cost has actually gone up $2,400 for a family of four. not down. and we know from labor department statistics that median earnings for american families have fallen by 4% since the recession ended.
and i think even its most ardent advocates now are coming to the realization that senator obama is not working -- that obamacare is not working out the way they had hoped. indeed i was on the floor a few days ago with a letter from three union leaders who said that basically it's turning out to be a disaster. it's hurting their own members. and again, these are people who were for obamacare saying it's not turning out the way that we had hoped. and the administration itself has implicitly acknowledged this by saying the employer mandate -- that is the requirement for people who employ 50 people or more, that that is stifling job creation and prompting many companies to take full-time jobs and turning them into part-time jobs. between march and june the number of americans working part
time jumped from 7.6 million to 8.2 million. i think the administration saw that number and it scared them a little bit, as it should. hence, they delayed the employer mandate for another year unilaterally. and a new survey finds that in response to obamacare that 74% of small businesses are going to reduce hiring, reduce worker hours or replace full-time employees with part-time employees. so i'm not suggesting those of us who did not vote for obamacare should be rejoicing in this development. indeed, i think it's a sad moment. but even its most ardent advocates are finding out their hopes, dreams and wishes for this government takeover is not turning out the way it should. again, this is not a time for anyone to spike the ball or to rejoice in the failure of this program. this is a time for us to work
together to say, okay, there are people who oppose obamacare. they ended up being right in their predictions. there were those who supported obamacare. and, unfortunately for the country, it did not work out the way they had hoped. so now is the perfect time for us to come together and say what do we do next to prevent the failure of this health care takeover by the federal government from hurting the very people it was supposed to help. this is an opportunity for us to work together to do that. so we need to do something different. someone said a long time ago that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. it's not going to happen. so we need to do something different. we need to do something different in terms of delivering access to quality health care and making it affordable. we need instead of more tax
increases and more temporary tax gimmicks, we need fundamental tax reform. this is something that republicans and democrats, i think, all agree on. the president himself said he believes we need to do revenue-neutral corporate tax reform that lowers the rates, broadens the base and gives us a revenue system that is more conducive to strong economic growth. and instead of having people and politics pick winners and losers in the economy or pick what parts of the law to enforce and which parts to waive, we need to dismantle what's left of obamacare and replace it with sensible patient-centered alternatives that will lower costs and prove access -- improve access to quality and not interfere with that important doctor-patient relationship, something that the senator from wyoming has spoken many times eloquently about. and instead of letting the environmental protection agency regulate our entire energy
economy, we need to expand domestic energy production by eliminating misguided federal regulations. instead of adopting energy policies that hamper job creation, we need to adopt policies that help promote jobs such as improving the keystone pipeline from canada. and not trying to overregulate something that's already subject to state regulation like fracking. here in washington people act like this horizontal drilling and this fracking process is something new. well, we've been doing it in texas for 60 years, and it's been regulated by the oil and gas regulator in our state and protected the water supply and benefited job creation and economic growth for a long time. so i understand, mr. president, that it's hard for those of us who were wrong about their predictions for many of these policies to say, you know what, it didn't work out the way we planned. and none of us are are rell
hreurbg in the fail -- relishing in the failure of some of these policies. but we need to work together and get outside of our ideological comfort zone and address the problem of chronic high unemployment. the fact that our young people are graduating from college and they can't find jobs. they know they're going to be burdened by the debt that we continue to wrack up, and our economy is bouncing along the bottom. i'm afraid if we continue with the policies of the last four years, we will create a lost generation of young americans who cannot find good, full-time jobs. none of us -- republicans, democrats alike -- none of us want that to happen. but it's time we did something about it. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming is recognized. mr. barrasso: mr. president -- thank you, mr. president. mr. president, later today president obama is scheduled to give the first in a series of
speeches about the economy. he is pivoting one more time to turn his attention to the millions of americans who are still struggling four years after the recession ended. now, i say "one more time" because as one of the reporters wrote thong, he said, "this is about the tenth time the president has pivoted to the economy." a white house advisor said that the president is going to be speaking about -- quote -- "what it means to be middle class in america." close quote. well, i hope that president obama will talk about how his own policies -- his own policies -- have harmed and continue to harm the middle class in america. i hope he'll talk about the harm that his health care law has done to hardworking families. i hope the president will finally start talking about these things because the american people have been talking about them for a long time now. i hear it every time i go home to wyoming, like every weekend.
whether i am in fre fremont cou, wherever i am in wyoming, i it into hear about this. now we're even hearing about it from the very union leaders who were among the law's biggest supporters. the heads of three major labor unions put out a letter recently that warned of the damage that the health care law is doing, doing of course to the middle class. they wrote that -- quote -- "the unintended consequences of the a.c.r. are severe ." "perverse snisk incentives are y creating nightmare scenarios." mr. president, that's what the law's supporters were saying. they wrote that the health care law -- quote -- "will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits but destroy -- destroy the foundation of the 40-hour
workweek that is the backbone of the american middle class." if the president wants to talk about what it means to be middle class in america, needs to explain why his policies are destroying the backbone of the middle class. that's what the union leaders are saismgh saying. they're seeing that the job numbers, just like the rest of us, are not good for america. in june the number of people working part-time when they wntt to work full-time soared by 322,000. there are more than 8.2 million americans working part-time jobs because their hours were either cut back or because they can't find the full-time work that they seek. the white house has conceded that the law has a problem, a problem for employers, when this said that they needed relief from the logistical mess that the law has created. that's why the obama administration decided to delay the so-called employer mandate. that was one of the signature
parts of the president's health care law. under the law, every employer with more than 50 people working 30 hours a week or more, they were going to have to offer expensive government-mandated health insurance. so now we have a one-year delay on this extremely unpopular an damaging washington mandate. well, if the law is so bad for businesses that they can't handle it in 2014, it's still going to be bad for them in 2015. now, that was just one regulation. the president's health care law has already created more than 20,000 pages of new regulations. well, those regulations concern middle-class families that i hear from in wyoming. but it's not just wyoming, mr. president. this morning "the washington post," front page, "health law's unintended impact on part-timers." front page, "washington post" today. let me just start. "for kevin paste, the president's health care law
could have meant better health insurance. instead, it produced a paycut. like many of his colleagues, this music professor at northern virginia community college had managed to assemble a hefty courseload despite his official status as a part-time employee. but his employer, the state" -- this is the state of virginia, his employer, the senate is not in order company, but the state -- not some company, but the state of virginia -- slashed his hours a void a january 1 requirement that all full-time workers -- there was a requirement in the health care that all full-time workers be offered health insurance. the law defines "full-time" as 30 hours a week or more. this is the state of virginia. virginia's situation provides a good lens on why. the state is more than 37,000 part-time hourly wage employees
with as many as 1 10,000 of thoe part-time people working more than 30 hours a week. rerks the 30 hours irerks theree key number. they include nurses, an important part of the needs of this country, park rangers, and adjunct professors would have been prohibitively expensive. state officials say, costing as much as $110 million a year. it was all about the money, said sarah redding wilson, director of the state of virginia's resource management. hurting the middle class. now, another thing middle-class americans are worry about is their health insurance premiums. they have a right to woample the mcclatchy you? service ran this last week.
"obama boasts of health care savings but costs likely to rise for many." the article went ton on to say, experts preduct that the premiums on individual plans will increase in most states because of the new consumer protections the sweeping legislation requires." consumer protections is just the white house tion wawhitehouse we red tape. that requires all service servis people have to say in their washington-mandated health insurance. it is all the health care services that people have to pay for in advance, whether they need them, whether they want them, whether they will ever use them. those requirements are a big part of the reason and another reason that health insurance costs are still going up. even though washington democrats promise that the health care law would have the opposite effect.
it's happening all across the country. indiana was the latest state to announce that premiums are going to go up next year, not down. last friday the state insurance department -- this is the state insurance department -- they said that average rates for people buying individual plans will go up 72%. that announcement follows big increases in ohio, maryland, idaho, missouri, and kentucky. in one state after another, rates for next year are being announced and they are much, much higher thank they were before the -- than they were before the president's health care law went into effect. so when president obama stands up to give his speech today and over the next few weeks, he should tell his audience the truth about what's happening to the rates and why. he should also talk to middle-class americans about what might happen to their access to their family doctor under his health care law. remember when the president said
that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor? that was something the unions wrote about in their letter. it's a promise they think that the president now isn't going to ceevmenkeep. i think they're right. now the health and human service department admits that, you may not be able to keep your doctor. this comes from the web site that the department set up to try to answer questions that people have been asking about the law. the department's web site now says that if you get your coverage through the government's new insurance market place, -- quote -- "you may be able to keep your current doctor." may be able to keep your doctor. that's a long way from when the president of the united states stonds stood up and promised -- actually, he used the word "guarantee" -- that you'll be able to keep your doctor. it's that kind of backpedaling and broken promises that those union leaders are worried about, it has job creators hess and it
and it has middle-class americans all across this country concerned. and of course the health care law is just one of the areas where overregulation is routeing the economy. another example is president obama tion announcement of title regulations on power plants. that's on top p of the excessive red tape the administration has put in place that makes it harder and much more expensive for america to produce american energy. last week i introduced a bill to block president obama from going around congress to implement his national energy tax through regulations. the american people have repeatedly told washington to focus on jobs, not to roll out more red tape that increases energy bills and decreases economic opportunities. the president promised that he cared about hardworking middle-class families. but his policies, one after another, are hurting those families and are make their
lives much more difficult. president obama needs to stop the washington spin and tell the truth, the truth about his health care law and the truth about his other failed policies. then he needs to come back to washington, put aside his tired old rhetoric, and work with the republicans to do the right things for the american people. that means coming up with a replacement health care plan to finally give people what they were asking for all along: the care they need from a doctor that they choose at lower cost. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, are we in morning business at this point? the presiding officer: we still are, yes. mr. durbin: thank you, mr. president. later on today we're going to consider a student loan bill which will affect 11 million students across america. what happened on july 1 is the interest rate paid by students for their student loans doubled. it went from 3.4% to 6.8%. we know students are graduating with more and more debt but we also know the cost of that debt, the interest rate makes a big difference in their lives. sometimes they postpone important life decisions because of the student loan debt. my daughter has a business in new york with two kphroeus and she says -- employs and she says the biggest worry they have is making that payment. i understand taking a look at the increase in debt. student loan debt surpassed credit card debt in america and it is growing faster than any form of debt. it is an indication of an indebtedness we need to take
seriously. we'll have a chance to do that this afternoon. there are many different poeufts of what to -- points of view of what to do. some people say the government should be involved but it should be a market based system. others say the government should be involved and it should be a subsidy. we should find ways of keeping the cost of education affordable and lowering interest rates will be one way to do it. so we'll have two amendments this afternoon. senator jack reed and senator elizabeth warren are offering an amendment which will cap the interest rate on student loan debts at 6.8% for most debts affecting undergraduate students and 7.9% for other loans. now, to cap -- to put a cap on that interest rate means that we have to subsidize. in other words, as we project out what the cost of student loans will be based on market interest rates, a subsidy is necessary to honor that cap. the second proposal will be from senator sanders of vermont, and
his approach is a little different. he says that we basically ought to sunset any increase in student loans for two years and hold them at the 6.8%. that ends up costing about $50 billion. and senator sanders may or may not offer a means to pay for that. i believe from some of his statements he's made publicly, he believes that should be a debt of the government. but i'll leave it to him to make his explanation. at the end of the day after those two amendments are considered, we'll come down to one basic decision we have to make as a body, democrats and republicans. here's what it is. it can be simply stated. should the student loan interest rate currently at 6.8% for virtually all students stay at 6.8% or reduce, be reduced to 3.8%? that's the question. because if we pass the bipartisan student loan certainty act, which i have
worked with republicans and democrats to craft, the interest rate for undergraduate students -- that's almost two-thirds of all students -- goes down 3%. from 6.8 to 3.8. i don't mislead you. it's based on a ten-year treasury rate to be projected over a period of time as general interest rates go up, so will the student loan interest rate from 3.8%. but we put a cap on it and say that that rate can go no higher than 8.2% in a ten-year period of time. protecting students even if interest rates go up dramatically. so there it is. the final vote will be whether to reduce the student loan interest rate from 6.8% to 3.8% and to cap it for two-thirds of the students at 8.2%. no higher than that for the next ten years. students who are receiving the subsidized loans won't have to pay the interest while they're in school, and they're going to have some other benefits at the
end of the day because what we're setting out to do is to make student loans affordable for students and to make sure that families are not burdened with loans that they can't pay back. i hope my colleagues, no matter what their philosophy on student loans, whether they believe it should be market based or government subsidized realize at the end of the day they have a clear choice to make. stick with a 6.8% interest rate or lower it to 3.8. what does it mean to students, the 3% difference. we went to the undergraduate student. it means if you don't lower it to 3.8, keep it at 6.8, it means that student will pay an additional $2,000 to $3,000 interest. why at the end of the day would we want to penalize students $2,000 to $3,000 in interest?
that's the wrong thing to do. i urge my colleagues when the bipartisan interest comes up, vote for it. even if you believe it should be a government subsidy which we've not been able to enact or you should it should be market based, either way this is a better outcome. personally i hope this isn't the end of the story. tom harkin of iowa chairs the help committee, the education committee, and he's going to come to the floor and start working soon on the reauthorization of higher education. we understand that it's more than the interest rate that's causing a problem with students. it's the cost, the cost of higher education. i went to georgetown law school. i couldn't get in there today with the standards that they have. currently i'm told it costs over $65,000 a year to go to this law school. $65,000 a year for three years in addition to your undergraduate debt. you better get a darned good job at a wall street firm afterwards because you're facing a mountain of debt. all across the united states
we're seeing tuition rates going up even at public universities to record levels. we've got to find a better way to prepare the next generation of leaders in america. the old model of four years undergraduate and then graduate school and professional school has gone beyond the reach of most students and families. keep in mind too student loans are different than most other debt. student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. the debt that a 19-year-old student and his family signs up for at age 19, as i mentioned, is a debt that can trail them to the grave. we have cases where people are signing up to basically guarantee the loans of granddaughters to make sure their granddaughter can go to college, and then their granddaughter either drops out or their granddaughter can't find a job and defaults on the student loan, and they proceed to collect it from grandma. i'm not making this up. they're garnishing grandmother's
social security benefits to pay for student loans that they guaranteed for their granddaughters. that is how ruthless this industry is and how tough this debt is. we've got a chance today to make this debt more affordable for students now to reduce the interest rate from 6.8% to 3.8% and cap it over the next ten years at 8.2%. i won't mislead you. in some categories of borrowing, graduate students and parent plus loans, in the second four years the interest rates go up more, and many of those who borrow in those categories are going to find five years from now they're facing a much tougher debt situation. i won't mislead you on that at all. i think that we can't leave the conversation today and say we're finished, we don't need to talk about it anymore. let's give the students and families the help they need today, but let's not stop on this issue. on the higher ed reauthorization
bill we have a chance to address student indebtedness and affordability for families. let me close by saying the worst offenders, the worst offenders when it comes to college loans or -- are the for-profit schools. you may not know much about them unless you're 19 years old and 18 years old and can't escape them when you go on the internet. they're trying to sign up students to for-profit schools, many of which are worthless. worthless. the numbers to remember are three, and they're going to be on your final so listen carefully. 12% of all the students coming out of high school go to for-profit schools. 25% of all the federal aid to education goes to for-profit schools. and 47% of all the student loan defaults are students at for-profit schools. so what's the message there? they're raking in federal dollars at twice the rate they should, and their students are failing at a rate greater than
any other category of schools. their students are failing to get a job, failing to graduate, failing to pay back their loans. for-profit schools are a national scandal. we need to deal with them in higher ed reauthorization. i know senator harkin has held hearings on these schools, understands that. we need to take an honest look at the schools that are misleading our students and families. schools that aren't worth accreditation aren't worth the time and aren't worth the debt that they are going to push on students. let me make a pitch here, a marketing pitch. i say it in illinois. i'll say it anywhere. if you're graduating high school and not sure where to go, what you want to do, what you want to major in, your safest best is your community college. it's nearby, affordable. it offers many options and in most states the hours are transferable to another college. it's a good way to start your college education. or vocational training. your community college is a smart investment. twhe comes to these for -- when it comes to these for-profit
schools, the opposite is true. when we reauthorize higher education let's come up with a good student loan approach that builds on what we can vote for today but let's also start looking at the overall cost of higher education, sensitive to the needs of families today to make shaoeur their kids is a -- make sure their kids have a fighting chance for the best jobs in america. madam president, i travel all around my state and i go to businesses. i ask my staff find me businesses that have done well in the recession and are hiring today. and i find a lot of good businesses, kraft foods in champaign, illinois. each year they need over 100 million industrial maintenance engineers, people to keep the assembly lines running, who understand how to repair things, understand computers and are good employees. the starting wage is by and large $50,000 a year. that is the asmg wage in my staivment tbhi it. a starting wage. what's holding them back? the students coming out of high school aren't ready. they don't have the math skills
or the computer skills. but if they go to parkland community college in champagne, they can acquire affordable -- thea that makes sense. that's a way to bring a student out of high school with a year or two of good training and a the g.a.o. opportunity for a life tievment it is a good place to stamplet those scwobs are all over my state and all over america. so let's focus on affordability in higher education, on training for vocational skills that give people a chance to become skilled apprentices and beyond and let's make sure today that we don't miss this opportunity to reduce interest rates. a "no" vote on the bipartisan plan will keep interest rates for students at 6.8%. a "yes" vote will lower the interest rates for two-thirds of students to 3.8% and save those students $2,000 to $3,000 over the next four years. it caps that interest rate at 8.2%. that is a guarantee that no matter what happens to interest rates, these students will be protected. this is a pretty basic choice.
we need a strong bipartisan vote here. regardless of your philosophy on what student loans should look like, keep these families and students in mind. if you're frustrated with the legislative process, frustrate that congress isn't doing it exactly the way you with a nts to have it done, don't take it out on the students. give them a "yes" vote for the bipartisan bill. madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the snr from washington. mrs. murray: thank you, madam president. what's the pending business? the presiding officer: the senate is currently in morning business. mrs. murray: madam president, i yield back the remaining time under morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of s. 1243, which the clerk will
report. the clerk: calendar number 99, s. 1243, a bill making appropriations for the departments of transportation, housing and urban development, and so forth and for other purposes. mrs. murray: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: for the information of all senators, we are now back on the transportation and housing appropriations bill. my colleague and i, senator collins from maine, will be here working through any amendments that our colleagues have to offer. we encourage you to come to the floor, let us no what he they are so we can get it done in a reasonable fashion. i yield to senator portman at this time. the presiding officer: the snrr ohio. mr. portman: madam president, i'd like to call up amendment 1749, and, mr. president, i send a modification of my amendment to the desk. and here is the modification to my amendment of i ask for its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from
ohio, mr. portman, proposes amendment numbered 1749. as modified. mr. portman: madam president, ask unanimous consent that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: madam president, thank you for allowing me to offer this amendment today and to my colleagues from maine and washington state, thank you both for your agreeing to work with us on this important amendment, and thank you for the way you're conducting this are aeptio are s bill by allowing amendments to come forward and having a debate. this is one that i think will be relatively noncontroversial. it simply says that bridges along our nation's highway system that need to be repaired ought to be prioritized. there are bridges that are classified by the federal highway administration as functionally obsolete or structurally deficient and we want to be sure they receive priority consideration under the
section of the bill that provides for bridges in critical corridors. this is a fund that's established under the appropriations bill, and in this way we're helping to ensthiewr that fund in question actually accomplishes its objective. we all know that the federal government's highway trust fund dollars are stretched very thin. frankly, there are not enough dollars make their way to the core infrastructure needs that we have in this country. in fact in 2008, the fund got in trouble and since that time it has been bailed out four times. a fifth bailout is now scheduled for fiscal year 20146789 clearly, the funds are very limited and we've got to be very careful and resourceful in how he would spend those funds. this appropriations bill does clurks as said earlier, a separate funding mechanism for bridges on critical corridors. i know there are some in this chamber who wonder whether that's necessary in the legislation. and i understand their argument. but if we're going to dplu
special fund -- to include this special fund, let's be sure the money is used in the most efficient way as possible. that's what this amendment is all about. let's be sure we target the limited resources that we have in way that addresses our nation's bridges that are outdated and often at risk. this amendment narrows the number of brinls that receive priority -- the number of bridges that receive priority consideration by 75% and does so by focus being its resources on functionally obsolete and structurally deficient bridges. these are bridges with problems that if left unaddressed could be in tomorrow's headlines. it's happening. we've all seen recent accounts of this functionally obsolete skaggett bridges that collapse in may. i know senator murray was involved in responding to this. it was struck by a truck that exceeded the bridge's height limit. there were no fatalities.
the bad news is that there are a lot of bridges functionally obsolete. there are thousands of them. we knead to make sure they're prioritized in this lels. one happens to be the brent spence bridge in my hometown. it is at the critical intersection of i-75 between southwest ohio and northern ken kemp. of the brent spence bridge was built nearly 50 years ago and it was designed to carry 80,000 vehicles today. 8,000 vehicles every day. as of this year, it's carrying more than double that number every day, and it's expected to exceed 200,000 vehicles per day by 20256789 to facilitate the increased traffic and congestion on the bridge, the engineers actually removed the bridge's emergency shoulders, so there are no emergency shoulders on the bridge anymore, and they also had to narrow the lanes to
11 feet rather than 12 feet, which is the recommendation by the federal highway administration. so this makes it hazardous for drivers. and it's also not alleviated the congestion much because it continues to result in an average of 3.6 million hours of delay for passenger vehicles every year. so brent spence is one example of an endangered bridge that this amendment could help. we need to ensthiewr bridges like brent spence receive the priority funding that the bridges in critical corridor sections of this legislation provides. so for this reason, i would urge my colleagues to support this commonsense amendment and again i want to thank senator collins and senator murray for allowing this amendment to be part of the process. mrs. murray: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: what this amendment does is it clarifies that when the department of transportation awards funding under the bridges in critical corridors, priority should be given to structurally deficient and functionally object so sleet
bridges. the federal highway administration uses those terms to talk about the status ever bridges across the country. when a bridge is functionally deficient its function is deficient. both standards can be a serious in the bill itself, i took the initiative to include an additional $500 million for these bridge investments so we can address these serious concerns across our country and make sure our transportation network is safe and reliable. so i support this amendment. i urge lio urge our colleagues e for t i would ask the senator from ohio if he wants a voice vote and allow us to go forward on that now or if he requires a roll call vote. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: madam chair, i would defer to you on that. i would like the voice vote, if that's what you would prefer. but it might be a good amendment
to have a recorded vote on. what is i your preference? mrs. murray: it is completely up to the senator from ohio. as i said, if you offer it as a voice vote right now, i can guarantee its passage quickly and how long do you want to wait out? mr. portman: i think we'll take you up on your offer. mrs. murray: a wise choice. and a good example for those snofs whsenators who fowl follo. ms. collins: i just want to commend the senator for his amendment. the fact is that 25% of our nation's bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, as described by the senator from ohio. in my home state of maine, nearly a third of our 2,408 bridges are deficient.
senator portman's amendment targets these funds to ensure that they are awarded to structurally deficient or functionally obsolete projects in an effort to respond tower nation's crumbling infrastructure. like senator murray, i support this amendment and i, too, am prepared to accept it on a voice vote. the presiding officer: without objection. the question occurs on the amendment offered by the senator from ohio. all those in favor say aye. opposed, no. the ic ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the amendment is agreed to. as modified. mrs. murray: move to reconsider. ms. collins: move to lay on the taifnlgt. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: i want to thank the senator from ow from ohio fr
bringing his amendment before us and laying a good example for all members to bring your amendments to the floor and we will work our way through them and we hope everyone can contact myself and senator collins as quickly as possible. with that, i call up senator cardin's amendment number 1760. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from washington, mrs. murray, for mr. cardin, proposes amendment numbered 1760. mrs. murray: i ask that further reading be dispensed with. officer without objection. with. the presiding officer: without objection. f. mrs. murray: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
ms. mikulski: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maimpletd. ms. mikulski: i ask that the call of the quorum be vacated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. mikulski: madam president, as the chair of the full committee on appropriations, i rise today to comment on this bill but also to thank and acknowledge the really important role that senators murray and collins have played. really, it has been the way the senate should operate. they've held extensive hearings at the subcommittee on america's
needs on transportation, an ever-piling-up backlog that we need to address, and it would accomplish several good, agreed-upon public policy goals. number one, safety -- because when we're talking about roads, bridges, and the other infrastructure things in this bill, safety is our number-one priority. number two, you'r you are when e building or repairing a bridge in maryland, maine, washington state, or north dakota, those people are working in the united states of america. and hopefully the supply chain involved in whether it's asphalt to steel is made in good, old united states. what we would do is improve the safety rates and lower the unemployment rate. and at the end of the day have something to show for it. so much of the american people are frustrated with us when it
comes to spending because they think if they give us $1, we'll spend $2 and not have a spit to snore it. -- to show for it. but yet in this bill at this time, we have really a legislative framework and a restrained fiscal framework to be able to move on important transportation infrastructure needs and on housing. the appropriate role for the federal government to be involved in housing. those things that are involved in, number one, promoting economic development in blighted areas, regardless of whether you're in an urban state or a rural state. the needs of north dakota are different than the needs of maryland. and even in my very dear state of maryland, we have different needs in different parts of the state. the robust baltimore corridor, which is more urban, requires
one set of framework, say, for the community development block grant money. but if you go to garrick county in the western part of the state hit by a blizzard in hurricane sandy or go to the eastern shore that was hit by a hurricane, literally flooded to dangerous proportions during hurricane sandy, those two counties have as high of a poverty rate as baltimore city. so when we talk about the great things in this bill, what i like about it is its local, it's money that will come from local needs, the needs of garrett county and somerset county are different than the needs of baltimore city. but what we do know is that we need jobs and we need to be able to address the needs of the people who want to be middle class and are looking for an opportunity to get there, and
also for the compelling needs particularly of the elderly and disabled. again, we in the senate know because we're urban and rural and suburban. you meet different needs according to the locale. in baltimore city it is a high concentration of elderly in certain areas and we can meet those needs through a combined effort of housing, meals on wheels, helping people be able to have coordinated services to keep them independent and healthy. you get to the rural parts, that's even harder. so what i like about this bill is it's really, first of all, focused on rebuilding america. you know, i so salute our troops. we've been in a ten-year war, and the consequences of that war will be felt by the men and women who served and the taxpayers who have to pay it for many years to come. but as we look at this, what they fought for is for america.
now we have to think about rebuilding america. i'm glad we gave it a try in iraq. okay, and we gave it a try in afghanistan. but come home, america. you know as the troops come home and hopefully the money comes back home, we begin to show results there. and if we rebuild our infrastructure, focus on compelling human needs, i think we will not only serve the nation well, but people will begin to have trust in us that through smart approaches, restrained budgetary -- restrained spending, that we can get there. i'm proud of what this bill does in maryland. it does create jobs. it helps with infrastructure. this bill is really absolutely crucial to maryland. first, the t-h.u.d. bill provides $40 billion for highways and nearly $9 billion for mass transit. we need that. this means that maryland will receive in fiscal year $700
million. we're not waiting only for the federal government. the maryland general assembly recently increased the gas tax; very controversial because of our compelling needs. and governor o'malley and our general assembly wanted to rise to the occasion but they want us to rise to the occasion as well. as we look at some of these projects, they affect not only the state of maryland but they affect the region and the nation. madam president, you weren't here when we had a horrific accident in 2009 at the metro. the metro was a terrible crash, brakes failed, safety systems failed, a lot failed. nine people lost their lives. and what we said that we were going to create a safety culture and turn to our national transportation safety board to be able to do it. i made two promises to the
families that i would do everything i could to see what were appropriate federal safety standards and to put money in the federal checkbook to improve that safety. i demanded reforms at metro from management to a culture of safety. so where are we now? guess what. we have put money in the federal checkbook for $150 million to continue to buy the important crash-worthy cars that -- crash-resistant cars that will be able to help them. the money will be used for signal improvement, railcar maintenance and make sure we are improving this. safety is a number-one obsession with me. in addition to working on metro, i know this bill deals with f.a.a.'s contract tower program, a subject of much debate during last year's continuing funding resolution. i remember real debate with senator moran on how we could keep those airports open.
they are the first to be hit by sequester. i've got five of them. they're in communities called easton, by the way vice president cheney uses it to land because he has a -- not cheney. excuse me. rumsfeld. rumsfeld is down there, and cheney would come down there as well. the frederick municipal airport that the president uses periodically for coming to camp david. hagerstown, martin and salisbury and ocean city. these towers are important for two reasons, national security and economic security. so we're looking at how we can make sure we keep these towers open so airports can come and land safely and take off safely and aid the commerce to our communities. but, madam president, you've heard me also speak about housing and community development. you know, when i got started in
congress, we had something called revenue sharing. it was started by president nixon so that local communities would get a formula-based funding to help them rebuild their communities or strengthen them in the area of economic development. well, that changed. that ended. that ended during the gingrich area but we came up with community development block grant money. that's again, that money that comes locally to meet local needs, and the criteria are: eliminate blight, improve employment opportunities, and be able to create a sustainable infrastructure that you won't need government subsidies so that the community can be able to sustain itself and build on that to create jobs. we're very impressed about this. again, this legislation meets needs for seniors and housing. madam president, i could go on about it, but this bill is a
very important accomplishment for the state of maryland. and when i talk about safety, i noted the portman amendment. i note the -- senator cardin has an amendment on a report on the highway deck. i just want to say something else. we had some tough things happen in my state over the last couple of days on the bay bridge. many of the people in this senate travel the bay bridge, some to go to their states. you know, we're next-door neighbors with our pals from delaware. senators carper and coons, we represent the delmarva peninsula, a wonderful peninsula. we hope you come over sometime and actually see real water of oceans and rivers and crabs and so on, as the gentlelady from north dakota. but this bridge, we now have two of them because of the volume. and then, second, the way people
travel on it, the velocity has increased. and last friday we had a terrible situation where a truck tailgated a passenger vehicle and pushed it off the bridge. off the bridge. the kor fell 40 feet -- the car fell 40 feet. thank god the passenger survived. a young lady who the impact was so high -- hard, the glass in the door broke, so she was able to get out and she's a fitness instructor, so she had the robust and physical vigor to be able to swim to safety. we thank god for her survival and so on. but we are now scared on the bay bridge. yesterday we had another head-on collision on the bridge. now, the triple a association, the american automobile association, has called upon the
national transportation safety board to review the conditions on our bridge. are the barriers high enough? should we be using two-way traffic now to alleviate the traffic jams because transportation is in other words, very important questions related to safety. do we need another bridge? analysis needs to happen. if we build another bridge, should it be there or farther down south? controversy, but again analysis. madam president, i cite that example because as i reviewed the facts in this case and consult with the state, i too am considering joining with the american automobile association to ask for nstb to review the accidents on the bridge and give us recommendations in terms of what we need so that it doesn't happen again. you can't fall 40 feet. it could have been somebody
elderly. there could have been babies in that car. it doesn't matter. you cannot fall 40 feet off a bridge being tail ended by a truck and think it's okay. you can't have a head-on collision and think it's okay. i don't think it's okay about what's happening on the bay bridge. i now want to work with my governor and consider what are the best steps forward. but as of today, i am very strongly recommending a review by the national transportation safety board to look at it. and it's not only what's happening in maryland. it's what's happening all over america. so i know i see on the floor the gentleman from oklahoma. i'm going to yield the floor so that others can speak. but before i do, i just again want to compliment murray and collins and the way that they have been moving this bill. i think it's an important one. and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the
clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. coburn: i wanted to speak for a moment -- ms. mikulski: wait, wait, wait. i didn't hear -- i can't hear you. i noted the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. coburn: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: i'd ask that the quorum call be vitiated. ms. mikulski: object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. ms. mikulski: object not nablus tery way. -- i object not in a blustery way. i objected to the gentleman's request to vacate the call of the quorum. if the gentleman could just
ms. mikulski: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: madam president, what you see here is that we were trying to work out -- the presiding officer: tbher a quorum call. ms. mikulski: i ask unanimous consent that the call of the quorum be vaibted. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. mikulski: madam president, i know my colleague, the senator from oklahoma, was waiting to offer amendments, filling in for senator murray, ifer iftion tryo
get a sense of what that meant. the reason i wanted the quorum to go on is that so i could have a chance to talk to the gentleman from oklahoma. wherever he is, i want him to know if he thinks that i was trying to stifle him or not allow him to have his rights on the senate floor, i apologize. what i was trying to do was create an orderly process so that we could keep this excellent momentum going. so i invite senator coburn to please return to the floor. if i in any way felt that -- felt that i was being negative towards him, i did not mean that. in fact, what i went was, lealts get it clear so he could go forward. the gentleman from oklahoma and i have an excellent relationship. we have agreed on many things and have duked it out on others. and we did promise an open amendment process, and we intend
ms. mikulski: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: madam president, i ask at that time call of the quorum be vacated. sph sphir without objection. ms. mikulski: madam president, i wish to add some further comments ojt bill while we're wait fog senators to return to the floor to offer amendments. i note the gentlelady from maine is returning. i note the absence of a quorum again. the presiding officer: the
the presiding officer: without objection. ms. baldwin: making college afford balinable is one of the t important steps we can make toward ensuring a path for the middle class for all americans. as a nation, we are still working to recover from the largest economic downturn since the great depression. access to student loans at affordable interest rates represents an incredibly important piece of this vital recovery. i often quote president obama -- quote -- ," tha--quote --aquotes state of the union. it says "to win the future, we must out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build the rest of the world." and i believe we do this best by supporting our students and investing in their future. unfortunately, the student loan certainty act on the floor today
is a step in the wrong direction. a college education should be a path to prosperity, a path to the middle class, not a path to indebtedness. as many of my colleagues have described, the bill before us today offers students and families lower student loan interest rates in the near term, but we can fully expect higher student loan interest rates in the years to come. for families with multiple children who are college-bound, their children's education becomes more expensive in each ensuing year. and this means that under this plan, a current freshman in college may get a decent student loan interest rate for a few years, but a current freshman in high school will end up with rates much higher than the cap
contained in current u.s. law. not only does this legislation raise long-term interest rate loans for students, it fails to close tax loopholes, it does not ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, and it burdens students who can least afford it with deficit reduction. the bill before us lacks a true vision for out-educating the rest of the world. it doesn't ask our country to invest in the future, senator doe--nor does it offer a comprehensive solution to college affordability. rather, it offers a poor, permanent fix and slaps students and their families with the bill. now, i would remind my colleagues that there were multiple alternative solutions proposed before congress slumped over the july 1 deadline that doubled the interest rates on student loans. i supported two measures offered
by my colleague from rhode island, senator reed, that would have paid for lower tax -- or lower interest rates for students by closing tax loopholes for the very wealthy in our country. the senate twice voted on senator reed's proposals, and they received a majority vote each time. we're also making a good-faith effort to address the shortcomings of the bill before us, to work toward a deal that would be a true win for students and their families. the reed-warren amendment, which i proudly cosponsor, would impose a lower cap to protect student borrowers. why on earth would we want to expose our students to higher rates? senator sanders amendment would sunset the current deal in two years and allow for a return to regular order, so that congress can rightly deal with interest rates and a host of the other
issues that affect college costs. these amendments are sound improvements to the underlying bill that would allow us to invest in students and families rather than obfuscate the student loan and debt problem. madam president, i'm disappointed that we have reached the point where debates about the future of college affordability are less about the lives of students and their families and more about protecting loopholes for corporations and the wealthy. it wasn't always this way. in 1944, starting with the compact to returning soldiers from world war ii made through the g.i. bill, our nation made a commitment to future progress by investing in education. between 1944 and 1951, 8 million veterans received education
benefits, including many former distinguished members of this body. in 1958, president dwight eisenhower, a republican, signed the national defense education act providing loans for college students and funds to encourage young people to enter teaching careers. the precursor to our current program for student loans. president lyndon johnson built upon this legacy, a cornerstone of the great society was a path to the middle class through a college education. the higher education act of 1965 gave us the federal student loan program known today as the stafford loan program, and the educational opportunity grant program known today as the pell grant program. this generation of american
lawmakers lived in trying times, winning a war, fulfilling the dream of the civil rights movement. yet, they still had the foresight to make the hard choices, the choices necessary to invest in the future -- our future. legislation that i supported as a member of the house of representatives built on this investment and lowered the subsidized stafford loan rate to 3.4%, which was the rate that students borrowed until july 1. we recognize that investing in students is important, and lowering rates is a part of that investment. the fact that state investment in higher education has declined significantly over the past decades has caused to exacerbate the problem, particularly as states struggle to balance their
budgets in these tough economic times, their investments in students have decreased, meaning higher tuition, fewer grants and fewer scholarships. i hear regularly from wisconsin students, the cost of higher education in my state puts college out of reach for some. 30 years ago undergraduate tuition at the university of wisconsin madison was about $1,000. today it's well over $8,000. and it's not just my home state of wisconsin. across the country, tuition at public four-year colleges has tripled. this all means that more students are borrowing through federal student loan programs to cover the higher cost of a higher education. for students at the university of wisconsin system, unmet needs after grants and scholarships is
over $9,000, nearly doubling in the last decade. yet, the federal government limits on subsidized loans have remained relatively stagnant over the past 30 years. in many cases the limits on what a student can borrow through the stafford loan program means their loans will not even cover the cost of their tuition. this is what it all comes down to. a series of choices. are we going to sacrifice the progress of our next generation because we are unwig to do the hard -- unwilling to do the hard work and make those tough choices now? are we going to gradually chip away at the ladders of opportunity put in place by the generations before to lift americans into the middle class and out of poverty? do we ask the wealthy to pay a little bit more? do we ask corporations to pay their fair share? or do we say to students that
you're on your own, sink or swim? i say to students across wisconsin and this great country, we should all be in this together. we must continue this compact from one generation to the next. the veteran who is educated on the g.i. bill wants to see his neighbors' children be able to afford to attend college. the teacher who earned her education through the pell grant program wants the same opportunity there for her students. the mother who attended college through the stafford loan program does not want to see her savings for retirement depleted or her children sacked with debt. i will reject sacrificing the progress of the next generation because we are unwilling to do the hard work and make the hard choices now. i reject shortchanging the next
generation of young americans by making college more expensive and then using the profits from their high interest rates to pay down the deficit, particularly when we ask the wealthiest to contribute nothing. if we are to win the future, we must make the hard, important choices now. and for this reason, and for the hardworking people of wisconsin, i oppose this bill and i urge my colleagues to do the same. i would yield back my time. ms. mikulski: well said. ms. collins: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: madam president, we've had a good discussion about how to proceed with this bill. the chairman of the full committee has been extremely constructive in exercising her
leadership. she very much wants a new approach, and i really commend her for bringing bills individually to the senate floor. what we are going to propose and through the chair i would like to engage in a colloquy with the chairman of the full committee is that as usual, we would go back and forth one side and then the other in considering amendments but that we would allow senator coburn to file a series of amendments at this point. they're already filed. to call them up and make them pending with the understanding that we would set aside individual amendments so that we could keep going back and forth and so that other colleagues on the republican side that have amendments would not be shut out but rather would be accommodated as well.
is that the understanding of the chairman of the appropriations committee? ms. mikulski: thank you, and i wish to respond to the ranking member to say this, i want, yes, that is our understanding, and it is, as we move ahead on this bill, remember, this is the first appropriations bill on the floor in two years. the first time thud has been on the floor for four years. you and murray are to be -- senator murray are to be commended. and the old school way -- old school with respect -- was an open amendment process with alternating amendments back and forth. old school was never bring up 12 or 15 amendments at one time. it was usually one amendment. so it is to go back and consider one amendment at a time, alternating sides with the
understanding that the gentleman from oklahoma wishes to speak on a variety of amendments and offer them. and again, i think we've cleared the air. i'm so happy about that. so i do concur with the gentlelady. we also understand that in addition to his amendments alternating, the chair, the ranking member, and the chairman of the subcommittee, there might be other intervening amendments. is that correct? ms. collins: i would say through the presiding officer that that is my understanding as well. and i think this was a very good example of everyone operating in good faith. and i for one am prepared for the senator from oklahoma to proceed. i would note that the cardin amendment is the pending amendment. ms. mikulski: i yield the floor. mr. coburn: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: thank you.
first of all, i thank the chairman of the full committee and the chairman of the subcommittee and the ranking member of the subcommittee. i first want to give them some praise. i don't agree with the total numbers in this bill, but i do recognize the significant changes you made in the bill on ideas that we have two years ago. and i'm very appreciative of the fact that the slumlord problem is being taken care of, that the vehicular, the count on vehicles for the federal government is being taken care of, conferences are being taken care of. so almost all of my concerns the committee has been very faithful to look at those, the issues we raise and actually include them in the underlying language. so i'm very appreciative of that. my desire in terms of getting amendments up is just to get them up and be flexible with the chairman and the ranking member on which ones they'll accept, which ones they don't want to take a vote on and talk about that and not to ramrod the process. it's only a matter of efficiency for me. if their pleasure is for me to
do one or two or three and then come back later and do it again, as long as we have an open amendment process, i don't have any problem with it. but i think we have some ideas to improve this bill, and i think the amendments ought to be considered. and so i thank you for the consideration of allowing me to make some amendments pending. and i'll talk with both the chairman and the ranking member about when and what we'll do with the disposition of those amendments. madam president, i'd thraoeubg thraoeubg -- like to call up amendment 1750 and ask the pending amendment be set aside for the purpose of calling up this amendment only. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from oklahoma, mr. coburn, proposes an amendment numbered 1750. mr. coburn: i ask unanimous consent that the amendment be considered as read. i'd also ask that amendment number 1751 be called up with
the pending amendments being set aside. the presiding officer: without objection. is there objection? without objection, the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from oklahoma, mr. coburn, proposes amendment numbered 1751. at -- mr. coburn: i ask that the amendment be considered read and it be set aside. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coburn: and amendment number 1754 be called up. the presiding officer: without objection the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from oklahoma, mr. coburn, proposes an amendment numbered 1754. mr. coburn: thank you. i ask that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coburn: i just -- i want to spend just a moment talking about amendment 1750. this bill has a prohibition in it which i think is long overdue and very good. what it does is it prohibits the transfer of funds and federal
assistance in the bill for corporations with delinquent taxes. and my belief is that's a great step in the right direction, that companies that are contracting with, doing business with the federal government have an obligation to pay their taxes. but i also believe that our federal employees ought to be paying their taxes as well. and so this is an amendment. we have $5 billion due to the federal treasury from federal employees that's been adjudicated. in other words, it's not under question anymore. there's no question about whether or not it's owed or not. they've run through all the appeals. and so, all this amendment would do, would strike the same balance for both independent contractors, which is not a part of the senate bill as presently on the floor, and individual federal employees who have a tax obligation. when the average federal
compensation fully absorbed is calculated, it's in excess of $134,000 a year when you count all the benefits and everything else. that's twice the median family income in america. the fact that we have this large of an outstanding amount, it's about $1 billion in current active federal employees, there ought to be some consequence for federal employees who have a tax obligation but aren't paying it. and yet, we continue to keep them in our employ, continue to pay them with no payment back to the federal treasury. in one division of the federal government -- the internal revenue service -- if in fact you're found in that case, you lose your jobs. it's grounds for termination. this is just a simple improvement that would say what is good for american taxpayers is also good for federal employees. and what is good for businesses
that do business with the federal government is good for federal employees. and what is good for the businesses ought to be also good for independent contractors who owe the federal government money. i'd be happy to have any modifications that the committee might recommend to this as well as, but in terms of fairness and running $17 trillion in debt and running $600 billion in deficits, we ought to be aggressive about collecting the taxes that are owed to us that there aren't any questions about. the principle the committee used in terms of businesses that deal with the federal government ought to be applied to individual contractors and individuals as well. and with that, i thank the chairman and ranking member of the committee for the opportunity to offer this amendment and will await their disposition and their plan. and i yield back the floor.
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: madam president, is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senate is not in a quorum call. mr. coons: madam president, president obama obama today is in the midwest talking to folks about how important it is that congress returns its focus to our nation's economic recovery, and i couldn't agree more. flustered by filibusters and paralyzed by politics, washington has gotten off track, and it's time that that changes. the senate this week has an opportunity to pass an appropriations bill, and i'm grateful for the leadership of senator murray of washington and the ranking member senator
collins of maine in bringing this appropriations bill to the floor. now, i'm still pretty new here, relatively speaking, but i'm told it wasn't an unusual or shocking occurrence back in the day for the two parties to come together to negotiate and pass a bipartisan spending bill. the bill that is in front of us would fund the departments of transportation and housing and urban development, and while i think to most people these agencies aren't especially related to their daily lives, both are actually fundamentally about investing in our nation and its critical infrastructure. the roads we drive on, the homes we live in, the trains and planes that we ride on, the ports our goods are shipped through. this bill is about infrastructure, madam president, and we know that when we invest in america's infrastructure, we're actually investing in america's communities and in america's future. this bill is about building the infrastructure for the long-term strength and stability of our communities and our country. it is about putting americans
back to work doing it. this bill will put americans back to work on a wide range of major transportation projects in communities across our country. the programs in this bill have meant an enormous amount to my home state of delaware, as i know they have to yours, and they can continue to have an important, positive impact on communities all across our nation but only if we can come together and fund them. the so-called tiger grants program helps state and local governments to pay for new highways and bridges, public transit projects, railways and port infrastructure. it is a competitive, highly sought-after program. for the current fiscal year, the department of transportation received nearly 600 appear occasions from across all 50 states, the district of columbia, puerto rico, guam. $9 billion in requests for just $470 million in available funds. that competition, madam president, helped focus these resources, where they were best leveraged, where they have the best impact, and in my view, our
communities need these funds and they need this bill to make possible this program. tiger grants in delaware made possible the building of the newark regional transportation center which will support 350 high-skill, high-wage construction jobs a year while it's being built. this new center will give folks in new castle county new options for public transportation, cutting down on the number of cars on i-95 and our local roads and strengthening the community. tiger grants are a core part of our nation's infrastructure strategy, and they will be at risk if we don't move this bill farred. -- forward. the new bridges in critical corridors program is another critical part of our infrastructure strategy, and i commend senator murray for her efforts to ensure that our nation's bridges are safe. at home in delaware, one out of five bridges are deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. let me repeat that, madam president. one out of five of bridges in my little home state of delaware are structurally deficient or
functionally obsolete. they may have major defects and need major repairs or may have been built so long ago that they're not up to current code. either way, i think you would agree this nation, our constituents, our communities, need our bridges to work and work safely. we also need and rely on our highways. the federal-aid highway program uses the highway trust fund to help state and local governments to plan, to build and to repair our nation's needed roadways. it is a true federal-state local partnership and has helped ensure consistent quality and safety standards on highways across our country for nearly a century. i shouldn't have to explain in this body why having functional roads is important to businesses, to families or even to the public safety, but i'll say this -- there are more vehicles on the roads year over year than ever before, and part of our responsibility is to make sure those roads work and work safely. another part is to offer our citizens other options to reduce the traffic burden on those
roads. this bill also contains two new programs to do just that that i think are worth briefly highlighting. the new starts transit program supports projects to provide new or expanded public transportation services, and the passenger rail grants of particular interest to me are focused more narrowly on inner city passenger rail services designed to reduce traffic congestion. how are we going to move this country forward, madam president, if we can't move around within this country? as a congress, we have to do more to strengthen our nation's infrastructure, and that is a big part of what this bill does. now, i recently joined the appropriations committee after the passing of a great senior senator, senator frank lautenberg of new jersey, who was for many, many years a great and tireless champion of amtrak. he fought harder than anybody to build amtrak into what it is today because he saw that with our population steadily growing, we needed to be prepared for it and to provide reliable, safe, affordable transportation, in
particular here in the eastern region. at his funeral, vice president biden said that, and i quote -- "if it wasn't for frank, amtrak wouldn't be what it is today." he's right. and of course, our vice president famously rode amtrak down to washington every morning and home to delaware every night that he served as a senator, as i do now. i took the 6:25 down, and i hope, god willing, to be on the 7:00 home. we'll see. amtrak, madam president, in this region in particular isn't a luxury. it's a fundamental and critical part of the economy, not just in my home state of delaware and at least a dozen states on the atlantic seaboard, but across the country for communities that rely on passenger rail to connect with the nation's major economic centers. senator lautenberg once said if we should down the northeast corridor rail service, you would have to build seven new lanes on interstate 95, on i-95 just to carry all the travelers that use these trains every day. in the last fiscal year, amtrak achieved a new milestone of
31.2 million riders. in fact, they had record ridership nine out of the last ten years. and amtrak continues to make steady progress, in reliability, in capacity, and in on-time performance. how could we possibly afford to replace this vital service with, as senator lautenberg suggested, seven new lanes of interstate running up the entire length of the east coast? now is not the time, in my view, given all these standards of progress that they have met, to gut amtrak as our counterparts in the house seem determined to do. now is the time to help amtrak build on its steady gains in progress and to continue to grow. amtrak is a vital part of dozens, even hundreds of communities across this country, so in my view to invest in amtrak is to invest in those communities and their future. the other major portion of this bill that we consider today is housing. this is the transportation and housing appropriation bill. as our economy continues to recover, people in communities all across our country are
looking to us to help them grow. housing infrastructure is just as important a part of the foundation of our country and our communities as is transportation. in low-income neighborhoods, restoring community infrastructure is the foundation for future economic growth. that's why this bill's strong investment in cdbg, the community development block grant program, one of h.u.d.'s longest running and in many ways most successful programs, is so critical. madam president, as you know, i served as a county executive before joining you here in the united states senate, and in that role, our local government made efficient, focused, targeted use of cdbg grants to provide for housing assistance for low-income seniors, for the disabled, for communities across our county in new castle county, delaware. cdbg grants are high-yield investments that work all over this country, that are controlled in many ways at the local level and that enable communities to rehabilitate buildings, streets and sewer systems that literally lay the groundwork for new business growth and vibrant -- in
vibrant, revitalized communities. as the hardest hit americans work tirelessly to get back to work and back on their feet, housing programs also included in this vital bill ensure that they can keep a roof over their heads or that they have the possibility of safe, clean, sanitary and affordable housing in their future. in delaware, nearly 4,000 people were homeless in our small state at least once last year, and more than 200 of them were veterans. all over this country, madam president, i know you and many of our colleagues are concerned about the number of our veterans who fought for us overseas and now face and endure homelessness here at home. for those who felt the despair and loss and loneliness of homelessness, those who live with this fear that they will one day experience it as well, the housing programs funded in this bill are a lifeline, and wayne to particularly thank senator murray for her leadership on ensuring that we end the scourge of veteran homelessness in our country.
homeless assistance grants, another key provision in this bill, helped delaware organizations and organizations all over this country to offer permanent and transitional housing to once-homeless persons while providing services, including job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and childcare. and last, the home investment partnerships program helps to expand the supply and affordability of housing to low-income families and individuals, many of whom, as i mentioned, are elderly or disabled. in my home state of delaware, a recent grant from the project rental assistance demonstration program will create and sustain 170 units of affordable housing over five years for persons with disabilities. for thousands of americans, -- for millions of americans and for thousands of delaware families, the key to a better home lies in good counseling, in homeownership, and in these sorts of investments in a stable, affordable housing market. lisa, one of my constituents from middletown, did not believe she would ever be able to purchase a home for herself and her two children, but a
federally funded class called preparing for homeownership helped her navigate the housing market and find a home that she could really afford. she is now spending less on her three bedroom home than she had in her two bedroom rental, and her children have a back yard of their own for the first time. if we want families to succeed, if we want children to focus in school, if we want to create communities with safety and stability, moving towards sustainable homeownership is a vital investment by this country in creating and sustaining quality communities. dedicated organizations like end call and interfaith community housing in delaware have leveraged federal funds such as these to help with mortgages, loan modifications and private capital to put more than a thousand families each year in delaware into better housing. their services include workshops, as i mentioned, foreclosure prevention services and counseling. another constituent who contacted me about housing, ava from rehoboth, was in danger of losing her home. when she met with a foreclosure
prevention counselor to discuss her personal situation, the counselor helped her to develop a plan to stabilize her finances and to modify her mortgage into a more affordable interest rate. because of a counseling program funded by this bill, ava avoided foreclosure and was able to save her home. the national foreclosure mitigation program administered through neighborhoods has helped hundreds of households in delaware to avoid the pain and the loss and the dislocation of foreclosure. last year, counselors from end call, from first state and from ywca conducted more than 5,000 homeownership counseling and education activities, including one on one counseling appointments, workshops and home buyer fairs. funding from this program would allow them to reach even more delawareans in need in the year ahead. madam president, we may have made some progress as a chamber just last week in getting through the executive branch nominations that had been the subject of a number of filibusters and quite a bit of contention, and i was pleased that this bill earned six
republican votes in the appropriations committee when taken up and considered. surely, it can earn enough votes in this full senate to move forward, to debate to consideration and i hope to final passage. it is the challenge of this chamber to listen to each other, to work together and to provide the vital investments in infrastructure and in housing that ensure a steady recovery and a brighter future. senator lautenberg once said that his career in business taught him that if you want to be successful tomorrow, you have to lay the foundation today. that is exactly what this bill does. that's what we're voting on, the foundation of tomorrow's success for america's families and communities. i earnestly hope we'll come together to pass this bill to create jobs and to invest in our country's future, and with that, madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: madam president, i have 17 unanimous consent requests for committees to meet
during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent these requests be agreed to and be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. harkin: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. harkin: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of h.r. 1911, as provided under the previous order. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 139, h.r. 1911, an act to amend the higher education act of 1965, and so forth and for other purposes. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. harkin: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. harkin: i ask further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. harkin: madam president, we are now on the student loan bill. so to speak. and there's going to be a few hours of debate on the bill itself, actually three hours, and as i understand it, there
will be three amendments in order under the rule on this bill, so we'll probably be on this bill for some time this afternoon. but we do want to finish it. i know the leader wants to finish it, both the leader and the republican leader would like to get this finished today so we will be working on this bill for probably a better part of this afternoon. but, madam president, i'd like to kind of set the stage for it by sort of talking about the situation with student loans and why we are where we are right now. first of all, i'd just like to say that the bill that's before us basically is the house bill. there will be a manchin-burr amendment that will be offered as a substitute, and i will be supporting that. that is the compromise bill. that is the compromise that we
reached through -- well, several weeks of negotiations between the republicans on the senate side and the democrats on senate side, and the white house. so it was kind of a three-party negotiations that went on, and this was the compromise that was reached. so the bill that's before us today represents a number of compromises that were made on both sides. to produce legislation that would give certainty to students who borrow money from the federal government to attend college this fall. as we all know, we have debated several different measures related to student loan interest rates for several weeks, and this is the closest we have gotten to an agreement that represents, i think at least two core democratic principles, our side's principles, related to student loan interest rates. now, again, i think it's only
right to point out that we have had a couple of votes on keeping the interest rates at 3.4% for subsidized student loans for the next year. that did not receive the 60 votes needed. to move. as a consequence, on july 1, the interest rates on subsidized loans snapped back from 3.4% to 6.8%. and so we've been working hard to try to keep students from paying that 6.8% interest, and how we could reach some agreement on that and that's what this bill does that's before us. so the two core principles that we fought for was that the front-end caps, to have front-end caps to ensure undergraduate students taking out stafford loans will not pay above 8.25% in interest even if
there are extreme fluctuations in the market. now, i would points point out that that 8.25% is exactly the caps we had on student loans in the 1990's. so this is not something new or out of line with what we've done before. so we had 8.25% in the 1990's and i might also add that five times in the 1990's we bumped up against that cap so that cap protected students five times in the 1990's from going above 8.25%. now, graduate students, we have a new line there for graduate students, taking out these stafford loans will have a cap of 9.5% in interest. parents and graduate students taking out plus loans, these are the parent loans will never pay above 10.5%. so that's the first thing. that's the first principles to have these upfront caps. secondly, the principle to get
as close to budget neutral as possible. so the composition of this bill places us about as close to budget neutrality as possible, meaning that billions of dollars will not be generated off the backs of students to reduce our budget deficit, something that was included in the version of this legislation that passed the house and was a key feature on an earlier republican bill that received a vote in the senate, an passing vote but received a vote. and, again, these are the compromises made on the republican side. they had several billions of dollars to raise on the student loans in the future. we didn't, so we've compromised down and it's basically $715 million over ten years. and since there's going to be over a trillion dollars in student loans over ten years, $715 million is not much compared to the trillion dollars in student loans that will be taken out over the next ten years. that comes down to about $71
million a year. and that's just about as close as we can get it to budget neutrality. so what's this mean for students? it means that this fall, all undergraduate students, subsidized or unsubsidized will only have to pay 3.68% good interest. that's down from 6.8%, down to 3.86% and that means heil thail have that interest rate for the life of the loan. that's locked in. won't vary. graduate students will see a 1.4% rate decrease from what it would be, and parents will see a 1.5% rate decrease. so in all cases, a decrease. that means real savings for borrowers, that means an average of $1,500 savings for undergraduates, $2,913 for graduate students and $2,066 for
parents again over the life of the loan. this bill also includes a provision that requires the g.a.o. to submit a report to congress within four months detailing what the actual cost to the federal government of administering the student loan program is and what the appropriate interest rate should be to avoid generating any unnecessary revenue. now, again, there is -- i'm sure people referred to it, there was an editorial in "the new york times" this morning talking about the fact that the federal government goft should not be generating revenue off the backs of students. we all agree with that. that's why we tried to get this as close to budget neutrality as possible. and as some will point out, well, under the system the way it's set up over the next ten years that the c.b.o. estimates the federal government will make more than $180 billion over the next ten years on federal
student loans. $180 billion. i might just say that deriving savings -- deriving savings was not the intended purpose of the federal student loan program when it began in the 1960's and it shouldn't be a purpose of it now. the purpose should be to keep interest rates as low as possible for students and their families. now, so in four months when the g.a.o. submits this report to congress, i plan to use that information to inform us on the reauthorization of the higher education act. i'll have more to say about that in a second. to get a loan system that does not generate money for the government. so far this debate on student loan interest rates will continue, and i hope that my colleagues will join us in that discussion as we move to the higher education act reauthorization next year.